For some people, hearing the word "Pit Bull" instantly brings to mind a bloodthirsty, dangerous dog ready to maul. It's easy to fear a creature with twelve sharp incisors. But what's actually true when it comes to the Pit Bull?
There's a plethora of misinformation from the media; Pit Bulls aren't necessarily as fearsome as you'd think, but it's still important to differentiate myth from truth about these much-maligned animals.
A locking jaw is probably the top myth spread about Pit Bulls. However, Pit Bulls are physiologically the same as every other dog. There is no bone mechanism to "lock" their jaw. The origin of the locking jaw myth is likely the sheer tenacity of a Pit Bull. Once they find a target and decide to attack, it's hard to convince them to let go.
Pit Bulls were first bred for bull baiting, a sport where the dog had to bite and hold the face of bulls and other large prey. When this was outlawed, the owners turned to dog fighting. However, nowadays, this cruel activity has also been made illegal. While there may be criminals participating in secret, the majority of Pit Bulls are not being used for dog fighting. Most of them are simply family pets.
Much like stereotyping humans, you cannot base the behavior of an entire breed on a few bad examples. Every dog has a different personality. The truth is that any dog can be aggressive if improperly treated and trained. Statistically, you are more likely to be bitten by a Chihuahua than a Pit Bull, though the attack is unlikely to be as severe.
Dog aggression and human aggression are two distinct behaviors. Historically, Pit Bulls were bred for dog fighting, but what use is a fighting dog that can't be handled by its owners? While this breed was bred for aggression toward other canines, their handlers still needed to be able to control them without being mauled, so it was necessary for Pit Bulls to be tolerant to humans.
Although dog fighting is now outlawed, it's no surprise that many Pit Bulls still commonly exhibit some dog-on-dog aggression or are very selective about the dogs they like. However, this does not mean that aggression will turn to their humans.
The term Pit Bull is a general term for several different breeds. The American Bully, American Staffordshire Terrier, Bull Terrier, and American Pit Bull Terrier are all considered Pit Bulls. These breeds do have similarities, but each is also distinct in size and characteristics.
Due to this lack of understanding, many media reports on Pit Bull attacks are actually dogs misidentified as Pit Bulls.
Nature versus nurture is a neverending debate. It's impossible to ignore the history of Pit Bulls, which agrees that the breed was originally created for aggression and violence. A puppy can be raised properly but, at sexual maturity, flip a genetic switch that makes it aggressive toward other dogs.
The need for proper pack structure and dominance is innate in dogs, and Pit Bulls should have an experienced owner who recognizes the signs of danger.
Look at any animal shelter website, and you'll see a disproportionate amount of Pit Bulls for adoption. However, the truth is that Pit Bulls are largely in shelters because they are popular with unlicensed backyard breeders. Pit Bulls look tough, which, unfortunately, makes them popular for overbreeding for profit.
This irresponsible breeding creates a lot more Pit Bulls than other breeds. When they aren't useful, these same people send them to a shelter.
Many people are wary of adopting a Pit Bull due to the genetic factors for aggression and an unknown background. But rest assured, reputable rescues will not adopt out these dogs if they have any signs of aggression.
Rescue dogs are often evaluated and tested in different situations to ensure they are safe to adopt. Animal shelter workers don't want dogs returned or euthanized and work hard to ensure the dogs they adopt out can be safe pets.
Studies have concluded that the strength of a dog's bite is more about the size and strength of an individual dog, not its breed. Breeds not considered dangerous, such as a Golden Retriever or a Poodle, can cause the same severity of damage as a Pit Bull of the same size. Pit Bulls may be more likely to hold on and not let go, but again, this often comes down to training.
With proper training and socialization, Pit Bulls can co-exist with other animals. With positive reinforcement and a strong owner who fortifies their pack structure, a Pit Bull can be taught that other critters in the home and on walks are not to be harmed. Proper supervision should always be done to ensure the safety of all pets and children, since dogs are still animals with moments of unpredictability.
Get your paws on the latest animal news and information